Coursework v. Teaching

My 6th formers are bored.

I’m not, but there are utterly fed up at the minute. We’re working through the Edexcel GCE in Applied ICT Unit 2 which is all about transactional websites – structure, backoffice, security, databases…

This should be an interesting unit. Not setting the world on fire perhaps but there is plenty of scope in there to actually gain some understanding and insight into how the Internet works and what effects it has. In practice though I briefly run through the necessary bits that apply directly to the coursework mark scheme and set them going. I write step-by-step instructions for importing data into a database because otherwise I’d end up holding twelve different hands. Unfortunately it seems I’m still going to have to do the hand holding as they seem incapable of folling the instructions. We had a week to do this and we haven’t managed it. If I want to teach them how to build a database for themselves I would need more than 2.5 hours to do it and my coursework deadline slips another week.

This isn’t just in AS Applied ICT. I’m suffering exactly the same with my 3 GCSE classes. I’m running through spreadsheets with Year 11s but I don’t feel I’m actually teaching them anything, just getting them through the coursework.

We spend:

  • 2 weeks identifying the problem
  • 2 weeks analysing the solution
  • 3 weeks designing the solution
  • 2 weeks building the solution
  • 2 weeks documenting the solution
  • 2 weeks evaluating the solution

So in a 14 week term we spend 2 weeks actually building a solution and the rest of it writing. There is only 1 week for ‘slippage’ so there is constant pressure from the very start. If I thought I would get away with it I would seriously consider providing the majority of the writeup myself and spending the time actually teaching the pupils how to use ICT, discussing whether ICT is actually the best solution, all that crazy crap I believed in before I actually started teaching.

They’ve even taken Year 9 away from me now. I’ve spent the whole of the first term on a revised Theme Park Project aimed at preparing pupils for the QCA Test. There’s no ability for me to do what I want to do, or what the kids will enjoy doing. In Years 7 & 8 I can sneak in comic books, video editing, voice recording and lots of other fun stuff. As soon as we hit Y9 it’s so utterly, utterly dull and uninspired that it hurts. I can try the odd lesson here and there but all I seem to hear from above is statistics, comparisons, FFT data, ALIS data… No wonder I overhear Y12 students advising Y11s not to take ICT because “it’s shit”. No wonder the numbers signing up at KS4 & KS5 are falling. No wonder the Computing course won’t exist next year (2 students at AS just doesn’t justifythe cost of running the course).
Hopefully the new iMedia course we may (but may not) be starting next year will help. Hopefully the budget will allow me to replace some of the ageing iMac G3s and roll out iLife across the whole suite. Hopefully I can find another idea to replace the PPT part of the GCSE course.

And hopefully I can manage to convince at least one pupil that computers are about more than word processing and taking screenshots.

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3 thoughts on “Coursework v. Teaching

  1. Hang in there! I am praying that the coursework burden will be at least halved for ICT when the functional ICT assessment is finalised.

    Anyone have any inside information on this? I normally hear whispers but it is all very quiet at the mo.

  2. I’m going into a local secondary to teach Key Skills ICT and keep wanting to tell them not to be put off ICT by it.

    If you think unit 2 gets dull, wait till A2 Project Management!

  3. It is far too late at night and I’ve still got a pile of coursework to mark, but I’m having fun reading your blog!
    I couldn’t agree more about KS3 ICT going in the wrong direction. I’m an AST and supposed to be encouraging schools to prepare their students for the new test, but I feel such a hypochrite. I feel really frustrated that we now have even less time to do anything which will actually prepare our students for how they need to use ICT. Then again, most of the web2.0 tools I want to use are blocked anyway!
    We’ve just completed a great project on online surveys (9.2b). We got 1300 students in the UK and USA to complete our survey and we’re now in the process of analysing the data using pivot tables. This has been really good fun. If you want to have a look at any of our KS3 units go to http://www.ndhs-sites.org.uk/ict/ks3/ks3ict.htm . I’d be interested to look at your unit to prepare students for the test. Could you email me a link or a zip folder? Time for bed!
    Alex

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